Ben Bishop is 6-foot-7, all arms and legs and stick and skates. No matter how much he’s in pain, no matter how much he’s struggling to move, he’s going to stop a lot of initial shots.
What happens next is what matters.
“He can stop that first shot,” said Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg, who’s replacing Bryan Bickell in the lineup for tonight’s Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. “He’s a big guy and he battles through traffic. So we’re going to have to find a way to get on rebounds. And when the rebounds are there, we have to put them in.”
The rebounds were there on Monday night in Game 3, but the Hawks did little with them. Bishop, battling through some kind of lower-body injury, somehow made 36 saves despite taking a second or two to get up after several initial stops. Peppering Bishop with shots is one thing. Making him move side to side, and making him pop up in a hurry is another.
“We’ve got to put more pucks at him,” Versteeg said. “You see he labors when he gets up, and he’s had a tough time getting up. So we’re going to have to find a way to get more pucks at him. We found a way to get  shots, but get guys in front and make life tough on him and hopefully you can find a few pucks and put them in the net.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper again was coy about whether Bishop would play —“We’re in the same holding pattern as we were 48 hours ago,” he said — but the goalie again participated in the morning skate and again was the first one off the ice. So he’s likely to be back in goal for Tampa Bay, which is up 2-1 in the series.
The Hawks want to be careful not to change their offense too much. Sure, if you can safely make the extra pass to force Bishop to move laterally, you go for it. But you need to be careful not to get too cute — a familiar problem for the highly skilled highly creative Hawks forwards. Simple is still best.
“You can change angles,” Antoine Vermette said. “Sometimes, if it’s not there, you take whatever you can have. But if you have the chance, make it hard on him.”
Puck possession is always the key. If the Hawks can dominate the puck like they did in the first period of Game 3, they’ll be fine. If the Lightning control the puck, though, it doesn’t much matter how mobile Bishop is at the other end.
“[It’s about] playing in their end and creating chances and working hard to get second opportunities,” Marcus Kruger said. “That’s when you get chances to maybe find those seams a little bit easier.”
Added Joel Quenneville: “We’ve got to get to the net more. We didn’t get enough traffic at the net or pucks to the net. We had some opportunities, but the quality or the quantity wasn’t as frequent as we would have liked. He did a good job, but I thought we made it relatively easy on him.”